A hearing was held on Wednesday at the congressional level to discuss a prohibition of spit tobacco by Major League Baseball players. Currently, the use of smokeless or spit tobacco is prohibited in the Minor League. The Major League does prohibit players from smoking in public and while in uniform. Recent years there has been a rise in the use of smokeless products according to the CDC's Terry Pechacek. He was quoted in a Rueters article saying that the downward trend in smokeless use has been gradually rising in recent years. The increase is primarily among white and Latino males.
The risks of smokeless tobacco are perhaps not as well known or in the public eye in the same way that the risks of smoking are. Spit tobacco is a cancer causing product with devastating, disfiguring effects.
At the hearing the issue of banning spit tobacco in the Major League brought people from all sides of the issue to discuss the issue. Health advocates made the case that youth are influenced by their role models. Athletes are held in a particularly high position in our society and young children are highly influenced by their behaviors. Some players spoke in support of eliminating spit tobacco from the league.
According to Greg Connolly, a Harvard Professor, about 1/3 of MLB players use chew. This high of a number definitely role-models the behavior and addiction to fans of all ages. Connolly also brought to light some of the social networking that young people are doing around baseball and spit tobacco. He read off the types of messages that Facebook users write to other users and the content was disturbing. One quote was "The bigger the dip, the better he plays!!" in reference to this young person's favorite player. Another interesting quote was " Baseball and Skoal... God Bless America!" A quick visit over to YouTube will also shed some light on how users influence other users all while protecting Big Tobacco's bottom-line and perpetuating addiction.
Gruen Von Behrens (see pictures of before and after) also testified before the committee on the issue. For those who don't know Gruen, he is public speaker in schools who shares his story of cancer and spit tobacco. He started at age 13 and by 17 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. A video of his story can be seen here.
To read the Reuters article click here.
To read the ABC article click here.
As for the hearing, no decision has been made. Hopefully the Majors will join the Minors in saying NO! to spit tobacco.